Mad Country: Stories by Samrat Upadhyay [in Library Journal]
Vikas Adam’s remarkable chameleonic range proves ideal for Samrat Upadhyay’s (Arresting God in Kathmandu) latest superb collection, set mostly in Nepal. Exceptionally gifted with accents, Adam could easily be mistaken for a multi-person cast; he’s effortlessly convincing as a disappointed father, a female inmate, a resigned protester, and the many others who populate these eight stories that piercingly explore politics, racism, family dysfunction, cultural chaos, even tourism.
In the title story, a high-powered businesswoman is imprisoned without cause; in “Fast Forward,” a newsmagazine’s founder becomes both famous and infamous when the government targets her publication. In “Beggar Boy,” the lonely son of a wealthy, absent father lives more in his imagination than in reality; a young American woman reinvents herself as a part of a Nepali family in “Freak Street”; a Nepali student in the United States finds himself in volatile Ferguson, MO, in “America the Great Equalizer.” In the collection’s most inventive, disturbing piece, “Dreaming of Ghana,” a man finds a naked woman in the street and takes her home, until he loses her to his best friend.
Verdict: Both Upadhyay and Adam are stupendous creators: one writes, the other performs – the result is a treasure.